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Suffering from body odour?

We look at the various factors known to contribute to body odour and provide tips for sufferers to better manage and prevent symptoms.

Whether you suffer from it daily or just after a hard session at the gym, body odour is never a pleasant experience. But have you ever wondered what actually causes it? Let’s find out.

Body odour, can affect anyone after puberty, as this is when we develop apocrine sweat glands under the armpits and in the groin area. The actual ‘odour’ occurs when a normally odourless fluid is secreted by the apocrine glands — such as from exercise or when you’re feeling hot, nervous or stressed — and combines with bacteria found on the skin.

Common causes

While everyone experiences body odour to some degree, those who are overweight, consume rich or spicy foods, or drink alcohol often, may notice they’re affected more than others. Additionally, some medications, such as antidepressants, are known to exacerbate symptoms, as can certain health conditions linked to excessive sweating, including:

  • Primary hyperhidrosis: Excessive or abnormal sweating where there is no clear underlying cause. While hyperhidrosis can occur anywhere on the body, the most commonly affected areas include the palms, soles of the feet and armpits. It’s thought that problems with the sympathetic nervous system may play a role in this condition.
  • Anxiety: Sweating can be a symptom of the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response.

Prevention and management tips

If body odour is beginning to impact your day-to-day life, rest assured — there are some simple ways you can help prevent symptoms, including:

  • Showering regularly: Keep areas prone to body odour, such as underarms, clean and dry by bathing and using antibacterial soaps or washes.
  • Using antiperspirants: Apply deodorant after showering as it contains an active ingredient called aluminium chloride which can help prevent the production of sweat.
  • Wearing the right clothing: Ensure what you’re wearing is clean and dry, and avoid synthetic clothing where possible. Natural fibres such as wool, silk or cotton are preferred as these materials allow your skin to breathe.
  • Speaking to a GP: As always, if you’re concerned or experiencing regular discomfort, seek professional advice.

Watch our Medibank experts explain what causes other common ailments, and how to treat them.

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